ATLANTA -- The Braves franchise is rich in playoff baseball and has a lot of legends who have played well. There have been 27 trips to the playoffs, 18 National League pennants and three World Series titles. It's a franchise with legendary pitchers.
And now, 23-year-old Ian Anderson is putting his name in the same territory of some Hall of Famers, some of the best pitchers the sport has ever seen. He's been that good. He still had rookie status this season! And he's putting his name alongside some baseball icons.
We'll get to that. But first, The Decision. No, not that one.
Anderson was pulled after five no-hit innings in the Braves' 1-0 Game 3 victory. He walked three and only struck out four, but he got weak contact all night. He only gave up three hard-hit balls.
Much will be made about pulling Anderson after just five innings when he had a no-hitter going. There's an argument to be made that he should've stayed in. He threw just 76 pitches. The Braves are going to have to use a ton of their bullpen in Games 4 and 5. If Anderson just got through six, A.J. Minter, Tyler Matzek and Will Smith would only need to cover one inning each.
On the flip side, Braves manager Brian Snitker's ideal plan coming into the game was likely Anderson for five and then his three ace lefty relievers could handle more than three outs each (he ended up using Luke Jackson for one inning as well and all four relievers will be fine to work in Game 4). The third time of the order was coming up in the sixth inning and that's been proven, statistically, to be the time the pitchers get hit the most. It was only a 1-0 game. He didn't have great command, either.
Snitker after the game said he told Anderson he was going with his "eyes" and his "gut." He also correctly pointed out Anderson wasn't going to be able to go all nine innings. "He wasn't going to throw a nine-inning no-hitter," Snitker said matter-of-factly, also acknowledging this felt like a must-win game.
Regardless, though, Anderson's stuff was great and he didn't allow the Astros to mount any sort of threat. This has become a theme early in his career. He's dominant in the playoffs.
Anderson has already made eight postseason starts for the Braves, tying him for fifth in franchise history. The top four? You might have heard of them: Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Steve Avery.
How does 4-0 with a 1.26 ERA sound in postseason play? That's what Anderson has put on his ledger to this point. Pretty damn impressive.
It's a better playoff ERA than Glavine, Smoltz and Maddux had. Hall of Famer Warren Spahn is also in Anderson's rearview. In fact, among Braves who have gotten at least three starts, Anderson has the best ERA in franchise history by a mile. Second best is Denny Neagle at 2.39.
Not only that, but Anderson is the first pitcher in MLB history to allow as few as five earned runs through his first eight postseason starts. And how about this nugget?
The 5⃣ lowest ERAs in a player's first 8⃣ career postseason starts (since 1913 when the ER became official in both leagues):— Jessica Camerato (@JessicaCamerato) October 30, 2021
Orlando Hernández: 1.22
TONIGHT ➡️ Ian Anderson: 1.26
Cliff Lee: 1.26
Orel Hershiser: 1.52
Stephen Strasburg: 1.55
With multiple bullpen games looming -- thanks to Charlie Morton's broken leg -- it was imperative that the Braves got good work in Game 3 or the very real possibility of the series not going back to Houston was on the table with a Braves loss.
Instead, Anderson delivered in a huge way, the Braves have the lead and are just two wins away from their first World Series title since 1995.
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